New Brunswick

New Brunswick children need more say in their own education: experts

As New Brunswick considers a number of ways to improve its education system, some experts say the province is asking the wrong people. 

Experts say education reform should be guided by students and the skills they say they need to learn

Marc Prensky said systems need to do a better job of asking students what they want out of education. (CBC)

As New Brunswick considers a number of ways to improve its education system, some experts say the province is asking the wrong people.

Marc Prensky, founder of the Global Future Education Foundation and Institute, said the education department should ask students what they need to learn. 

"We would actually listen to kids, who they are," said Prensky. "What are your dreams, what do you love, what are the problems out there that you see that you care about? We're going to prepare you to do that."

Prensky is one of many experts invited by the education department to discuss a wide range of proposed reforms included in a green paper report put out by the province.

The report proposes a number of changes, including the phasing out of age-based grade levels, using more artificial intelligence, and more partnerships with the private sector. 

Global problem

Prensky said a student should be asked what their dreams are, and educators should find ways to make that a reality. (CBC)

Prensky said people treat children like pets who can be told where to sit and perform tricks they're taught. Instead, he said educators should listen to and observe children to figure out what those skills might be. 

Prensky said the resources needed to help children with their dreams can be found online, and the only thing that's missing is someone to guide them. 

"Listen to the kids and believe the kids. If a kid tells you his dream is to become x, y or z say, 'Okay, let's work on that,'" said Prensky. 

"We really don't pay enough attention to who our kids are as people because we didn't need to in the past. Now we need to."

Tracey Burns also said more attention should be given to what students say they need.

Burns is a senior analyst for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international organization that works with governments to find solutions for worldwide problems.

Tracey Burns said education systems around the world struggle with finding out what students actually need. (CBC)

Burns, who works out of Paris, said it's a global problem.

"It's become more about the process, more about the administrative issues, more about the tests than the student," said Burns. 

"One of the questions that countries are asking is how do we deal with the expectations and the hopes we have for our students and the students' expectations and hopes they have for themselves, and how do we actually work that into a high quality education environment."

Burns said this includes seeking feedback from younger students, and shy ones who may not be as articulate or confident about expressing themselves.

With files from Harry Forestell